Don’t Go There

The Washington Post ran an interesting essay in their Outlook section a few weekends ago about a problem that we know well: Global tourism and its negative impact on the places we visit. Under the title "Don’t Go There," writer Elizabeth Becker makes a strong case for why sustainable travel is so important, and interviews National Geographic’s Jonathan Tourtellot, director of the National Geographic Society’s Center for Sustainable Destinations, in the process. She writes:

The places we love are rapidly disappearing. Global tourism today is not only a major industry—it’s nothing short of a planet-threatening plague. It’s polluting land and sea, destroying wildlife and natural habitat and depleting energy and natural resources. From Asia to Africa, look-alike resorts and spas are replacing and undermining local culture, and the international quest for vacation houses is forcing local residents out of their homes. It’s giving rise to official corruption, wealth inequities and heedless competition. It’s even contributing to human rights violations, especially through the scourge of sex tourism.

Becker has been writing a book about how journalists cover the tourism industry, and some of her stats are well worth the read. And, in nod to us here at NG, she mentioned National Geographic Traveler’s annual Places Rated issue, and our Center for Sustainable Destinations as great resources on how to travel better.

Julia Ross of World Hum reported on Becker’s op-ed, and included a mention of Traveler. In it, she asked:

Setting aside the innumerable benefits of foreign travel we take on faith at World Hum, is Becker unduly alarmist? I don’t think so. A $7 trillion global industry that accounts for 8 percent of all the jobs in the world deserves critical attention—something I haven’t seen much of in U.S. media, with the exception of a few venues like National Geographic Traveler.

So we ask our readers: do you think the media has been remiss in reporting on the negative impact of the travel industry?  Do you think things really are as bad as Becker says? 

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Photo: A monk at Angkor Wat, one of the sites threatened by global tourism. By Jay Burleson, via the Intelligent Travel Flickr pool.

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